Ga. Boosts Pay For Child Welfare Workers Amid High Turnover

Elly Yu / WABE


Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a $25 billion state budget this week, which includes slight raises for teachers and other state workers. But child welfare workers will get a salary boost of 19 percent, meant to cut high turnover rates within the agency.

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On its job website, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services currently lists around a hundred job openings for case workers throughout the state.

An example of the stressful challenges facing child welfare workers comes from Zenique Johnson, a DFACS case manager.

Last summer, she responded to a call about a baby who seemed to be in trouble. The baby was two months old, but Johnson said the infant weighed the same as it did at birth. Based on looking at the baby and the language the baby’s mother used, Johnson said she knew something was wrong.

“She never took ownership of the child. It was always ‘this child, that child, that baby.’ It was never ‘mine,’ ” Johnson recalled.

Johnson called her county directors that night about the urgency of the situation, and the next morning, her co-worker, Michelle Doris, went to see the baby. During the drive to the doctor, Doris said the baby aspirated and she gave it CPR until the baby could recover.

The baby spent about week hospitalized, but Doris said the baby is healthier now and in the process of adoption.  

It’s child welfare workers with experience like Doris and Johnson the agency needs to keep, said Ashley Fielding, a DFACS spokeswoman.

“Because right now, what we see is about every three years, we completely turnover our workforce,” Fielding said.

She said the pay raises will go a long way. Doris, a case manager, admitted she’s thought about leaving at times.

“It’s very exciting to me to know that that’s going to help keep new people coming and staying, because we do need the help,” Doris said.